As I wrote in April, Cameron has purchased his first car and has been trying to obtain his Learner’s Permit. At the time of that column, Cameron had taken the knowledge exam twice. He has since taken it twice more. This exam became an indication of Cameron’s future for me. I needed to know he could pass this test. I needed to know that this test, developed for the general population, was within Cameron’s capabilities. Too often I find myself looking at Cameron’s report cards full of A's and B's wondering what good grades from a special needs school with its modified curriculum and specialized teachers really reflect. Are Cameron’s grades a true indication of his abilities? Or are they like those end- of-the-year Certificates of Achievement that no one goes home without? Are good grades the only kind of grades given in this setting, because who could possibly fail a student with learning disabilities? After all, that would be like kicking someone when they’re down. So because I have a hard time assessing what Cameron is really achieving in school, this knowledge exam at the DMV became the standardized test that meant the most to me.
Cameron’s fourth attempt at the knowledge exam came last week. I tried to maintain positive energy, thinking I could influence his result through good vibes. But as I sat in the waiting room with Cameron—who was clutching ticket number 1035 and the index cards I had made as study aides—I felt growing anxiety as each number was called over the loudspeaker. Waiting at the DMV is anxiety-inducing for anyone. How could I expect my son, who exhibits a fair amount of anxiety in ANY situation, to wait through all the number calling, and then take a multiple choice test which hasn’t been carefully crafted to his learning style? Cameron was pacing, and so I stepped into the ladies’ room to let a few numbers go by without my heart racing with each announcement. It was then that I decided I needed to rethink things. Perhaps having his car in front of the house was too much pressure for Cameron. It was wrong for me to pin Cameron’s future to passing this one stupid test. I then decided that when we got home I would discuss selling his car to take the pressure off.
After about an hour of waiting, Cameron’s number was called. And then there was more waiting, and finally he took this test. While I waited, I tried to figure out how to manage our disappointment. Just then, Cameron came around the corner with a tight look on his face, and he was eyeing a place to sit down … in the line among the people who had passed the test. What happened next was a made-for-Hollywood moment:
“Did you pass?”
He ran over to me (as I was hooting and clapping) and wrapped me up in a bear hug while he planted multiple kisses on my cheek. Never have I experienced such an outpouring of emotion from him. Later, when we were at his celebratory dinner, I asked him why he was so excited to have finally passed. Without hesitation, he answered, “Well, partially because I’m excited to learn to drive, but mainly because it proves I can do it.”
I’d have to say this has been one of my top five parenting moments. (I had originally typed “10” but backspaced and decided five is more appropriate.) As it turns out, passing the knowledge exam was just as important to Cameron as it was to me. And Cameron wanted to prove he could do it, as much as I wanted him to prove he could do it. I guess it’s true what they say. Great minds think alike.